Man using earplugs to protect his hearing before a concert.

Earplugs can be practical if you’re exposed to loud sounds, such as for instance, something as basic as a spouse who is snoring, or a lawnmower in your yard, or going to a concert at an arena. In the first two circumstances, they can assist in safeguarding your hearing by turning down the volume. They help save your sanity and perhaps even your relationships, in the last case, by allowing you to get a good night’s sleep. But are your ears being harmed by these protectors?

What’s The Point of Using Earplugs?

It’s a pretty simple case for wearing earplugs: Properly used, earplugs can help to safeguard your hearing by reducing your exposure to extreme decibel levels. When you leave a loud place, like a football game where the announcer keeps telling the crowd to, GET LOUD, when the opposing team kicks off, you’ve probably observed that your hearing seems different, and you could also have symptoms of tinnitus. This occurs because those super-loud sounds can actually bend the tiny hair cells in your inner ear. It usually goes away within a couple of days, because the hair cells have recovered.

But if you’re exposed to extreme decibels continuously, say you work on a construction crew or at an airport, the audio assault on those tiny hair cells is constant. In this instance, those hairs never get better, they are permanently injured. Inside each cochlea, you have around 16,000 of these little hair cells, but up to 50% of them can be ruined or at least damaged before you would notice the different in a hearing assessment.

Is it Possible to Injure Your Hearing by Using Earplugs?

In terms of protecting your ears, it seems like it would be a no-brainer to utilize earplugs. But primarily if you’re in scenarios where you’re exposed to loud noises on a regular basis (like on the job or when your spouse snores as previously stated), headphones that reduce, but don’t totally cancel, sound or over the head earmuffs are a much better idea. Earplugs aren’t well suited to everyday use but are better suited to one time events like a concert or sporting events.

Why? The first problem is, earwax. In order to protect themselves, your ears create earwax, and if you’re always using earplugs, more earwax will be produced, and you’ll probably push it in with the plugs. Tinnitus and other complications can be the outcome from impacted earwax.

An ear infection can be another concern for people who wear earplugs. If you frequently use the same pair, and you fail to clean them properly between uses, they can become bacteria traps. Ear infections are, at a minimum, a painful irritation. But at the worst-case-scenario end of the spectrum, they can also be the cause of hearing loss if neglected.

How Can You Safely Use Earplugs?

Whether it’s a restful night sleep or protecting your ears, there’s still a big positive to wearing earplugs. You just have to be sure you’re using the proper kind and utilizing them the correct way. Foam earplugs are the least expensive, which is good because you really shouldn’t reuse them, the soft, porous material is a germ’s haven. Don’t put silicone or wax earplugs back in until they are totally dry after utilizing warm water to completely clean them. Accumulation of moisture can cause bacteria or mold so keep your earplugs in a well ventilated place.

If you need or want to wear earplugs regularly, you may want to consult us about getting custom-made earplugs. They’re comfortable since they are made from molds of your ears and they are reusable. But it’s worthwhile not to forget, good earplug hygiene can lessen hearing impairment.

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